RRecently, the various social media feeds from singer-songwriter and producer SG Lewis have offered everything from tutorials on recording techniques to live broadcasts during which Lewis shows off his ability to swallow cans of beer in one. In the middle is evidence of Lewis’s obsession with disco, which he has evidently fallen in love with.
There are enthusiastic recommendations for Tim Lawrence’s master book Love Saves the Day: A History of American Dance Culture 1970-79. There are videos of the British producer flipping through a 12-inch disco in a second-hand record store and clips of him interviewing Alex Rosner, the pipe-smoking genius designer of sound systems in the legendary New York clubs of the 70s. The Loft and the Gallery, whose voice appears over jingling synth arpeggios in the short Rosner Instrumental Interlude from The Times. And there are screenshots of messages from Nile Rogers, who appears on his single One More. In fact, the original title of Lewis’s album was Good Times, derived from Chic, before the adjective was dropped, presumably when it became apparent that calling an album Good Times would seem unnecessarily sarcastic given the current state of the world.
You could say there’s something hideously ironic about releasing an album informed by the club’s communal hedonism in early 2021, regardless of its name. Certainly, there is something a little strange about hearing Lewis’ description of the Times as “an ode to the present moment and the finite possibilities we have to celebrate it”, when the present moment feels endless and giddy repetitive. And yet the Times also reaches a strangely opportune point: the disco is having one of its regular moments, manifested everywhere since Dua Lipa. Nostalgia for the future to Victoria Monét’s Experience – both with Lewis – as well as Doja Cat’s Tell me, the BTS video Dynamite, and a plethora of thought pieces ranging from celebratory tone to hand-wringing. If Lewis’s belief that his album could include the soundtrack to a summer of festivals and post-closing raves seems optimistic, the fact that his natural environment remains closed for the foreseeable is clearly no barrier to his potential success.
The Times content underscores what Experience has already suggested: Whether it’s because of his immersion in the original era or a natural affinity for doing so, Lewis is truly adept at producing disco-infused pop-house. Rather than overloading tracks with obvious, high-end disco signifiers, his talent lies in subtle touches.
Time’s charming accompaniment, reminiscent of the late-90s classic Music Sounds Better With You, is interwoven with a beautifully muted orchestral arrangement and inconspicuous snippets of vocal samples (taken, it turns out, from Dennis Edwards’s Don’t Look Any Further). ; Back to Earth, largely instrumental, is decorated with a sober but annoying woodwind motif. One More’s lyrics are part of a long tradition of bittersweet songs about fleeting disco romance and convey the feeling that Lewis knows the dance floor intimately. For all that could be headed for the charts and Radio 1 A-list, the Times tracks have a different flavor of reality. The soaring analog synth tones from Chemicals, courtesy of Chad Hugo of the Neptunes, underscore the song’s description of a party going into chaos; Canadian singer Rhye’s blurry yet euphoric voice in Time captures the hazy unreality of sunrise after a night out.
Lewis is less sure when he walks away from his album project. There’s nothing exactly wrong with the ballad Heartbreak on the Dancefloor or the more directly pop Impact featuring Robyn, but they feel less distinguished than the tracks around them. And his own voice is noticeably less distinctive than that of his guests, a state of affairs amplified by the fact that he seems to have no confidence in them: every time he picks up the mic, he seems to turn up the Auto-Tune.
But those are problems that you think you could solve over time. Lewis has spoken that the contents of his debut album are undergoing a certain circumstantial reuse as global events overtake them: with the intention of creating a sweaty euphoria at dawn, they currently have to function as music that transports the listener from their environment. , even temporarily. You can see how the slow-build electronics from All We Have or the Syndrum blasts from Feed the Fire can be boosted when heard at high volume in the middle of a crowd, but they’re still songs loud enough to withstand being pulled out. . In context, to add a moment of brilliant glee to a Friday night that doesn’t involve anything more exciting than showing off Spotify in the kitchen.
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• This revision was modified on February 18, 2021: Times is published in EMI / PMR, not Virgin / PMR as stated above.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism